Can the Philadelphia Police Lie to You?

by | Jan 18, 2022

Yes, the Philadelphia police can lie to you in some situations. A United States Supreme Court ruling in Frazier v. Cupp allowed police to use deception when getting a confession as long as they don’t commit entrapment. Entrapment is when police induce or encourage the commission of a crime to obtain evidence of that crime per 18 Pa.C.S. § 313.

In This Post

A Philadelphia criminal investigations lawyer shares little-known information about police interrogations, the most common types of lies they tell, other interrogation techniques used, and where you can turn for legal help if you believe you’re being investigated for a crime.

The Basics of Police Questioning

Police questioning can start in several ways. From mere encounters to interrogations, officers routinely approach people for more information. However, these “interviews” typically devolve into full-blown interrogations where they ask leading questions, manipulate your responses, and poke holes in your story to elicit a confession.

Once arrested or detained and after reading the Miranda warning, police don’t have to do any of the following

  • Remind you of your legal rights
  • Wear a police uniform
  • Make you aware that you’re a subject or target
  • Tell you the truth

Philadelphia police officers receive training in interviewing techniques. They must also follow department protocols and policies.

You can download a PDF of the Philadelphia Police Department’s directives on interviews and interrogations via their website here for more information about their publicly available protocols.

What Can the Philly PD Lie About During an Interrogation?

Police officers can and do lie to people as an interrogation technique. The primary objective is to get the suspect or witness to confess to a crime. Typically, they accomplish this goal by establishing a strategic rapport.

Here are six lies that the Philly PD can tell you to further their case:

Lie 1. Not Admitting to Being Undercover

One common misconception is that officers must reveal their affiliation with law enforcement upon request. However, this belief is untrue. Undercover cops rely on their secret identity to protect themselves and conduct successful stings and busts that would be impossible otherwise.

Lie 2. Evidence in Possession

Another lie the Philly PD may tell relates to evidence they have in their possession. For example, they could tell you that they found your fingerprints or DNA at a crime scene so that you as the suspect break down and confess due to the “overwhelming” evidence against you.

A detective might even tell you that they can offer you a lighter sentence. A word of caution: police have no sentencing authority. Judges are the only ones with sentencing discretion. Police also cannot make promises about deals. Only the district attorney can make promises on behalf of the state.

Lie 3. Eyewitness Involvement

Police may also convince you that they have an eyewitness to the crime. For example, a detective could say, “We have a witness willing to testify that they saw you at the club on Friday night,” even if no such witness existed. Without legal representation protecting your legal rights, there’s no way of knowing how much information police have and from whom.

Lie 4. Ability to Obtain a Search Warrant

Search warrants are another tactic the police use to coerce people into disclosing information. Typically, they tell the suspect that they shouldn’t conceal any information as they can “just go get a warrant anyway.” While this isn’t technically a lie, this deceptive technique can indicate that they don’t have a strong enough case against you.

Lie 5. Conversations Being “Off the Record”

Any statements issued to police are admissible as evidence in court. Never forget this concept since a common police tactic is to speak with you “off the record.” There is no off-the-record-on-the-record with police, meaning you should always play it safe by never saying a word to them, even to clear your name.

Lie 6. Confessions From Another Party

Police can suggest that they already know something about your role in a crime to elicit a confession or gather more evidence. They also have the authority to tell suspects that another confessed to the crime and blamed it on them. Don’t respond to their efforts without having a Philadelphia criminal investigations attorney present.

What Other Interrogation Techniques Do the Philadelphia Police Use?

Aside from lying, police use the Reid technique when interrogating someone for a crime. John E. Reid developed the highly effective method in the 1950s and is still in use today. The main objective is to lead a subject to believe that confessing is in their best interests, whether that’s true or not.

Below, we’ve outlined the three (3) strategies utilized in the Reid technique:

  • Strategy 1. Isolation: Officers isolate the suspect from family and friends in the hope of creating a sense of loneliness in the individual.
  • Strategy 2. Maximization: Officers share a theory of how they believe the suspect committed the crime while refuting any assertions of innocence. Think of this as the “bad cop” routine.
  • Strategy 3. Minimization: Finally, officers turn on the “good cop” routine to obtain a confession. They may say that they understand your position and that confessing can help put the whole matter behind them.

You will likely face the Reid technique if the police call you in for questioning. Avoid making incriminating statements by invoking your right to remain silent and requesting a criminal defense attorney.

Watch Out for Information Questioning Techniques

Informal questioning may also occur during interactions between a person and an officer. If police stop for no apparent reason, assume that they’re investigating you informally and act accordingly. Ask them if you’re free to leave, and if not, inform them that you’re invoking your rights to remain silent and an attorney.

Is It Illegal to Lie to the Philadelphia Police?

It is illegal to lie to the Philadelphia PD in some situations.

For instance, 18 Pa.C.S. § 4914 imposes criminal charges upon anyone who falsifies their identity to a police officer during an investigation. Also, it’s illegal to lie to police when filing a false police report in Pennsylvania. However, the most serious offense is perjury, or lying under oath, a third-degree felony per 18 Pa.C.S. § 4902.

The key to police questioning and interrogations is managing risk, and many unrepresented suspects are on the losing side. Instead of figuring things out by yourself, reach out to a criminal investigations attorney as soon as possible. Consider why hiring one may be right for you.

Get Legal Help from a Top-Rated Criminal Investigations Lawyer Now

Are you being investigated by the police for a crime?

If so, remain silent, and speak with a Philadelphia criminal investigations lawyer. At Shuttleworth Law. Brad V. Shuttleworth, Esq. has helped hundreds of people clear their names throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Call (215) 774-1371 for a Free Case Evaluation now or message us here directly.

We can travel to you if you can’t meet at our office.

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